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‘Everything is at stake’ in debt limit standoff, Raimondo says

“If we want to lead in the world, we need credibility,” the US Commerce Secretary said on the Rhode Island Report podcast. “And defaulting – China will see that, and it’s a sign of weakness.”

US Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 16, 2023, in Washington, D.C.Win McNamee/Getty

PROVIDENCE — On the Rhode Island Report podcast, US Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo weighed in on the high-stakes standoff over raising the nation’s $31.4-trillion debt limit, saying, “Everything is at stake.”

President Joe Biden and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy have been trying to reach a deal as the nation heads toward an economically catastrophic default — as soon as June 1, according to the latest Treasury Department estimate — unless Congress votes to raise the debt limit. While the two leaders remained far apart on Tuesday, there have been glimmers of optimism.

“We have to get it done,” Raimondo said. “I’m proud of the president and the way he’s leaning into it. The economy is at stake. People’s jobs are at stake. Providing critical public services are at stake.”


The economy is doing well and unemployment is low, she told Globe Rhode Island’s Ed Fitzpatrick and Rhode Island PBS’ Jim Hummel. “But it’s fragile,” she said. “Supply chains are still a little bit challenged. Inflation is still a challenge. We don’t need this right now.”

Chief executives at major US companies frequently raise concerns about a potential default, Raimondo said. “It is the first thing they bring up with me, which is to say: ‘Hey, please, we have to do everything we can. Don’t let the United States default. It would just crush this economy.’ ”

Raimondo, a Democratic former Rhode Island governor and state treasurer who became US commerce secretary in March 2022, said the debt ceiling standoff is not helping the nation’s ability to compete with China.

“The United States needs to be strong, needs to be a global leader,” she said. “And in order to do that, we need to have a fully functioning government. We need to be able to have people have confidence and faith in the full faith and credit of the U.S. We need to pay our bills.”


Raimondo said the question is not whether to spend more money. “This is about paying the bills for money that’s already been spent by Democrats and Republicans,” she said. “So if we want to lead in the world, we need credibility. And defaulting – China will see that, and it’s a sign of weakness.”

On the podcast, Raimondo also talked about the recent loss of her mother, Josephine Piro Raimondo, Tiktok, our relationship with China, and the honorary doctorate that she will receive from Brown University on Sunday, May 28.

To get the latest episode each week, follow Rhode Island Report podcast on Apple Podcasts and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at Follow him @FitzProv.